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liam ; which he declined. He endeavoured to be re-instated in his studentship at Christ Church, but without effect : terms were probably proposed as a condition of his restoration, to which he could not submit. The Essay on Human Understanding, and the Letter on Toleration, were now published. The former production is one of those works which stand as the land-marks of literature, and furnish the means of ascertaining the great eras in the history of the intellectual improvement of mankind. It was more fatal to the systems to which men had been enslaved by the authority of great names, than any previous publication. It laid the axe to the root of prejudices which were become inveterate, and to which no effective opposition had previously been made. The object of its Author was, not to impose one set of dogmas in the place of another, but to conduct the mind to the point from which inquiries should proceed that may enable the examiner to separate truth from error, and to repose only on the evidence which truth presents. In utility, it transcends the most elaborate treatises of the most celebrated masters of the ancient schools. A higher character scarcely can be conferred on any work, than that which an accomplished writer of our own times has bestowed upon the “ Essay on Human Understanding." Few books have contri
· buted more to rectify prejudice, to undermine established errors, to diffuse a just mode of thinking, to excite a fearless * spirit of inquiry, and yet to contain it within the boundaries ' which Nature has prescribed to the human understanding.' This last excellence is a most distinguishing feature in Locke's investigations. He possessed the sagacity in which so many who had attempted to make discoveries in the same regions, were so signally deficient, which, while suggesting the proper methods of conducting the understanding in its several inquiries into the objects of knowledge, and supplying practical rules to the inquirer, warns him also of his approach to the confines of that bleak and barren region of speculation from which he could bring back no remunerating gains. But it is unnecessary for us to enlarge our remarks on this celebrated work. Its merits have been largely discussed, and its tendencies in all directions acutely examined ; its blemishes and its errors have also been detected and exposed; and the student who may now sit down to the serious perusal of it, is most abundantly supplied with the means of benefitting by its instructions, while he is guarded against its mistakes and its defects. The utmost purity of intention is unquestionably to be claimed for its Author; and he is fully entitled to be credited when he declares: · Whatever I write, as soon as I shall discover it not to be truth, my hand shall be forwardest to throw it in the fire.' To the other work, we shall give more of our attention, be
cause it is less generally known than the Essay; and on account of the importance of its principles and design, we should be happy to promote its increased circulation.
Locke's "Letter on Toleration", which has been characterised as the most original, perhaps, of all his productions, and which the noble Biographer pronounces to be the most useful, because the most practical of all his works, was written during his secluded residence in Holland. It was first printed in Latin, at Tergou, with the title, “ Epistola de Tolerantia ad Clarissimum Virum. T. A. R. P. T: 0. L. A. Scripta a P. A. P. O. J. L. A.;" a very cabalistical-looking inscription, but meaning nothing more than, Theologiæ apud Remonstrantes Professorem, Tyrannidis Osorem, Limburgium Amstelodamensem
Pacis Amico, Persecutionis Osore. Joanne Locke, Anglo.' (A Letter on Toleration, to the very excellent Limborch of Amsterdam, Professor of Theology among the Remonstrants, a hater of Tyranny, by John Locke, an Englishman, a friend of peace, and an enemy of persecution.). The subject had engaged his attention many years previously; as appears from a long article in his Common Place Book, dated 1667, the conclusion of which Lord King has extracted. Locke's earliest connections and domestic education were adapted to produce impressions on his mind in favour of the freedom of religious profession and .worship; and the evils which he had observed as resulting from the denial of it, only tended to strengthen and mature them. His residence in Holland too, where the consequences of religious intolerance had been so afflictive, and where he had become acquainted with men of liberal genius and habits, was not without its advantages in preparing him to become the assertor of religious rights. He was fortunate in the crisis of events with which the publication of his “ Letter on Toleration" was coincident. It was printed in England in the year following the Revolution, when the distractions of the Church, not less than the agitations in the State, were forcing on the public attention the consideration of the primary questions which interest society. The exclusion of one sovereign whose maxim of government was the substitution of will for law, and the accession of another whose pretensions were founded on the acknowledgement of popular rights, requiring great changes for their se.curity, furnished the occasion of discussing in all its bearings on - the interests of conflicting parties, the principles which were comprised in Locke's immortal work.
Locke, however, is not to be considered (nor does he ever put forth such a claim) as the first writer by whom the true principles of religious liberty have been propounded and explained. During the whole period which intervened between the commencement of the sittings of the Long Parliament, and
the Revolution, the subject was in agitation, and many admirable arguments and illustrations in vindication of the rights of conscience and the obligation of mankind to exercise them, were adduced by contemporary and successive writers; and in some instances, entire treatises were published in assertion of religious toleration. Locke had many predecessors, who, if they must yield to him the pre-eminence in respect to the comprehensive and luminous treatment of this great subject, were not less the enlightened and devoted advocates of religious liberty. His greater and brighter name has eclipsed the splendour of some inferior lights, for whose memory a place may be demanded in the remembrance of every friend of the hallowed rights of conscience. We should be happy to enable our readers to do justice to forgotten names, by endeavouring to trace out the progress of opinion on this subject; but at present, we have neither the opportunity nor the means of gratifying our own wishes in this respect. In such an inquiry, great care must be taken to avoid the bias of party and the prejudices which proceed from our connections; prejudices of which we are not always conscious. But for ourselves we hope we may say, it is a point which we deem of no importance, among what denomination first sprang up the true light which illuminates the most vital inquiry ever proposed to Governments or to subjects.
Milton, whose exertions in the cause of freedom were sustained and directed by the very highest influence of that spirit which inspires great minds in their resistance to enslaving principles, boldly took the field in liberty's defence', and displayed the prowess of his mighty genius in the awful conflict which was to determine the differences between the oppressors and the oppressed. A mind like his, which felt the love of liberty as its ruling passion, and was so deeply embued with religious truth, could make no compromise with its convictions of duty. Existence seemed, in his view, to have been given to him at the period in which he lived, in order that he might redress the injuries of suffering consciences, and purify the institutions of his country from the corruptions which had tainted and impaired them. In the first periods of his life, the atrocities of the High Commission and the Star Chamber furnished excitements to his zeal; and in the later periods of it, his spirit was stirred by the tyrannies of the men who, having abolished prelacy, substituted in its place a system of ecclesiastical rule not less rigourous in its intolerance. New Presbyter' was not less odious to him than 'old priest.' No service was more inviting to him, than the defence of that liberty of conscience which, above all
other things, ought to be to all men dearest and most precious.' In one brief sentence, he has included the whole subject of religious right; and the numerous powerful and beautiful portions
of his prose writings which were composed in its vindication, are only comments on this text; that any law against conscience is
' * alike in force against any conscience. Treatise of Civil Power, Dedic. He asserts the principle, that civil laws have no cognizance of church delinquencies; and proves, that 'for belief or
practice in religion according to the conscientious persuasion of
man, no man ought to be punished or molested by any outsward force on earth whatever. These demands, however, are made by Milton in respect to parties accrediting the Scriptures. He denies that an idolatrous religion may be tolerated, and thus leaves us dissatisfied with a principle which limits the freedom that it professes to concede. Milton, in his arguments, sometimes forgets the admonition which he tenders to his opponents, to remember, that the state of religion under the gospel, is far differing from what it was under the law. His works, however, with every deduction which may be requisite, are replete with instruction on the question before us, and augmented the means which, in better times than his own, became available for obtaining the recognition of the rights of conscience.
Among the Independents, the principles of religious liberty were less known and less practised than has been sometimes af. firmed. In their debates and conferences with the Presbyterians, they involved themselves in the inextricable subtilties and perplexities of fundamentals'. Dr. Owen's positions, and the application which he would make of them to practical cases, were not uniformly unexceptionable; but he must be admitted to rank with the most enlightened advocates of his time, who far excelled most of their contemporaries in their pleadings for religious immunities. John Goodwin, whom Symmons, in his “Life of Milton," describes, somewhat flippantly, as a writer of no celebrity, is, perhaps, the most honourable name which appears among the Independents, as a writer on the side of religious freedom. He admits Jews, Turks, and Papists,' to the
', rights and benefits of toleration. But the times which preceded the age of Owen and Goodwin, were not without witnesses, who bore a decisive testimony against the restraining of religious profession by external force. Roger Williams maintained the opinion, that 'the civil magistrate ought not to punish any breach
of the first table'; and, after his emigration to America, he founded the institutions of Rhode Island on this basis. At a still earlier
period, Leonard Busher presented to James I. and the High Court of Parliament, in 1614, his Religious Peace,' in defence of general and universal toleration. The principles of this publication are most honourable to its author; he pleads for the protection of every person and all persons differing in religion, and that it might be lawful for them to write, dispute, confer, print and publish any matters touching religion, either
• for or against whomsoever. He maintained the perfect equality ' of all members, as brethren and fellow disciples.
This slight and imperfect sketch may be sufficient to shew in what manner the subject of religious freedom was viewed by some of Locke's precursors; and it may perhaps bring under the notice of some of our readers, the names of meritorious individuals, who are much less honoured than they deserve to be. It will also enable them to appreciate the correctness of certain statements, which have been confidently made by various writers of late, in claiming for their respective parties the honour of precedence, in the exposition of the principles of religious liberty. The republican statesmen of the Commonwealth, and the Independent divines, have been severally invested with this merit; but they, in fact, were only successors to others, in this invaluable service to truth. Nor is the account given of “The Discourse on the Liberty of Prophesying," as the first treatise professedly written in defence of toleration in this country, entirely a correct one. Busher's “ Plea” is rather entitled to this distinction. Jeremy Taylor's “ Discourse" is to be classed with those productions which are written on the principle of limitation. It requires an agreement in the reception of the articles of the Apostles' Creed, as the foundation of faith. It has been objected against the Author of the “Liberty of Prophesying," that he was only a special pleader for toleration to Episcopacy, while under persecution. We see no reason for questioning his perfect sincerity. In regard to the time and circumstances of his writing on the subject, he was only doing as the oppressed and suffering of other denominations have done. Milton's integrity no one can possibly impeach; but the objection against Taylor, to which we refer, might as truly be brought against Milton.
With all its extraordinary merits, Locke's "Letter on Toleration,” together with the several defences of it which he successively published, is not faultless. No enlightened and unbiassed advocate of the rights of mankind, who would separate civil immunities and claims altogether from religious obligations, and assign to each their precise limits, and the circle of their operation
and control, will ever pronounce Locke's principles adequate to the great subject on which he has written so much and so well. His own works may be cited against him, when he appeals to his reader, that "absolute liberty, just and true liberty,
equal and impartial liberty,' is, in respect both to the equity and reason of the case, the subject of demonstration in his discourse. His positions are not always in harmony, and his reasonings are sometimes at variance with them. Sometimes his principle is so stated, as to leave the whole case of a man's religion, or want of religion, as a question between the individual and his Maker, not to be referred to the arbitration of another; and